Elliot Dawes and Adam Rossiter met whilst studying at Essex University, where they teamed up to launch an import business in 2006. However they would soon realise that the future success of their business would lie in creating their own products, here co-founder Elliot tells us their story and what others can learn from it...
Having originally imported supplements from the US, Elliot and Adam decided to switch to manufacturing in-house - which enabled them to send BULK POWDERS branded products directly to customers and expand to 13 ecommerce sites. 2015 saw the business grow its workforce to 75 and clock up £15m in sales, with 2016 resulting in BULK POWDERS entering the Sunday Times Fast Track 100 list at number 38 and sales further increasing to around the £24m mark.
So Elliot, tell us the story of your turning point and how it impacted your business.
We originally entered the sports nutrition market by retailing third party brands. Although we were pretty successful, we saw the opportunity to create our own brand, which would enable us to offer existing products at lower price points and bring lots of new products to market - all at better margins! That’s when BULK POWDERS was launched.
We initially ran the businesses in parallel, but ultimately focussed more and more on BULK POWDERS until that’s all we did. It turned out to be the right move for us, as evidenced by the fact that many of our old competitors are now struggling, whilst we are delivering impressive year on year growth, with no sign of things slowing down.
How important do you think the ability to pivot in business is?
When you’re starting out in business, it’s very important. If we hadn’t changed our business model to launch our own brand, then we’d be struggling to compete against the likes of Amazon right now. If you can’t pivot, or be nimble when you’re small - you’ll never be able to. As you get larger, it’s hard to change the direction of your business totally, but you can change functions within - i.e. ripping up your existing marketing strategy and trying a new one.
How can entrepreneurs identify when a turning point is approaching?
That’s a difficult question to answer. I guess it’s about identifying opportunities or trends. Sometimes these may be blindingly obvious, other times not so much. Added to that, it can often be a tough decision to follow a new path, or stick with what you’re already doing. Perhaps the ability to make those tough decisions separates successful entrepreneurs from the not-so-successful.
Why should businesses prepare themselves for disruption?
Disruption is a given in business. Whether it’s down to internal or external factors, it will happen. I’m not sure you can necessarily prepare for disruption per se - it’s about dealing with it as best you can, learning from it and making sure the same thing doesn’t happen again.
What do you think the future holds for the sport nutrition industry?
I think there will continue to be a shift away from trade brands, i.e. those sold and distributed through shops and gyms. The shift will be towards online B2C brands, such as us, who engage directly with the customer and are able to offer them a personalised service – providing the products they want, at the right price and when they need them.
And finally, what are your hopes for 2017?
As a brand we want to continue taking market share in Europe alongside starting to look at markets outside of Europe. We’ll be investing heavily in our website and increasing headcount to support this expansion.